Don't Be Afraid of Your Kitchen: Adapting Recipes

I love recipes. I read and re-read cookbooks more often than I do my favorite novels, which is saying something. I’ve probably read Wuthering Heights five times...and Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors somewhere near fifty five times. Reading recipes has value far beyond meal making. Sure, you can read a recipe and create it in your kitchen. But reading recipes also helps home cooks to get new ideas about herb and spice combinations, vegetable pairings, and methods for handling ingredients. Perhaps most importantly, reading recipes can help you to develop a signature cooking style, and then branch out when the time comes for more growth. I often flip through my cookbooks (or Google) simply to get new ideas for using the ingredients I have on hand. 

Here’s the thing about recipes, though. If you meal plan using recipes, and especially if you use a wide variety of recipes, your shopping list can get really long really, really quickly. It seems the more foodie-ish a recipe is, the more likely it is to call for ingredients that aren’t pantry staples for most home chefs. The ingredient list can sometimes turn recipe hunting into a tedious chore rather than an enjoyable pastime, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With Brookford’s large variety of products available, it’s actually quite easy to apply a little know-how and adapt most recipes for ingredients you can get through your CSA share. In that spirit, I’ve put together a cheat sheet for adapting recipes to work with ingredients you can easily source from Brookford’s offerings. I may do this again at some point, because there are SO many ways to adapt recipes. For today, I’m covering fat, dairy, and vegetable swap outs.


Not all fats are interchangeable. For example, if you’re making a salad dressing and the recipe calls for olive oil, you will not have success using lard in its place. That said, if you’re cooking the fat, you have far more options for substituting ingredients. There are five fats that you can source from your CSA share: lard, butter, bacon fat, tallow, chicken fat. (The easiest way to prepare chicken fat or beef fat for use in recipes is to make stock, let it cool, and then remove the solidified fat from the top of the container).


There are SO many ways to swap out dairy products, and certainly more than I can concisely mention here. I’ve included substitutes for some ingredients that Brookford does produce because there are times when you may not have that particular item on hand, and where another Brookford product could work really well instead. This list serves as a starting point to help you get started.


Like dairy, this list is only a small representation of the versatile nature of vegetables and how they can be swapped out in recipes. Honestly, almost any vegetable can stand in for any other vegetable in most recipes. Many of the vegetables listed are produced by Brookford farm, but since they aren’t all available in all seasons, I thought it might be helpful to show how other seasonal varieties can stand in when needed. Use what is local and available, and be adventurous.

A few final thoughts. I often find and use recipes that call for ingredients that are listed based on outdated nutrition advice and/or the factory farmed quality of the typical American diet. I don’t shy away from using these recipes, rather, I have a few basic substitutions that I make nearly 100% of the time. To make all of your cooking healthier for you (and for the planet), you may want to adopt the following general rules in your kitchen:

Also helpful to know is that most nuts can replace each other pretty easily, same goes for seeds. The same principle applies to most beans, and many herbs. That being said, swapping out ingredients WILL change a recipe. That’s okay. There’s a difference between changing a recipe to fit what you have on hand and ruining a recipe. Knowing how to substitute ingredients means that the recipes you find become foundations to build from rather than rigid blueprints. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. For me, this skillset takes the stress out of cooking and makes it a more enjoyable and creative process. You cannot live without food. Might as well make it fun!